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Showing posts from February, 2019

Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
(SPOILERS) I dothink it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. There are movies I’ve watched so many times – Withnail & I springs to mind – that I can’t envisage enjoying it as “purely” as I once did again, and certainly doubt that I’ll revisit again any time soon. Indeed, these days, I’ll rarely watch a new movie more than a couple of times in short order so as to preserve that quality as much as possible (sometimes that’s hard; Fury Road is five and counting). The Big Lebowski is one I’ve seen on numerous occasions over the years, but it’s probably been half a decade since the last time, for exactly the same reason of not wanting to diminish it.

If you honk, I’ll spew.

Oscar Winners 2019
Not having a host this year meant it was much more difficult to find a decent quote line. I considered using an excerpt from Regina King’s acceptance speech, but quoting it ironically probably wouldn’t travel. So Mike Myers gets it by default, since it sums up the ceremony quite nicely (he and Dana Carvey really should have resisted dredging up Wayne and Garth under any circumstances, though, since their schtick had dated badly approximately six months after the release of the first film).

No one ties down this Batman forever.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
(SPOILERS) The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part isn’t very good. Which is to say, it’s just about passable – nothing more, so don’t take the equal and opposite tack and interpret that as effusiveness – until the last twenty minutes, when it opts to become actively objectionable in its efforts to patronise and consequently provoke children (and hopefully their parents) everywhere into states of abject wrath. The fact that Phil Lord and Chris Miller penned the screenplay should, by rights, cause any rational person to question every positive impression they hitherto had of the duo.

Yeah, she loused up one of the five best days of your life.

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
(SPOILERS) The zeitgeist Best Picture Oscar winner is prone to falling from grace like no other. Often, they’re films with notable acting performances but themes that tend to appear antiquated or even slightly offensive in hindsight. Few extol the virtues of American Beauty the way they did twenty years ago, and Kramer vs. Kramer isn’t quite seen as exemplifying a sensitive and balanced examination of the fallout of divorce on children and their parents the way it was forty years previously. It remains a compelling film for the performances, but it’s difficult not to view it, despite the ameliorating effect of Meryl Streep (an effect she had to struggle to exert), as a vanity project of its star, and one that doesn’t do him any favours with hindsight and behind-the-scenes knowledge.

Even after a stake was driven through its heart, there’s still interest.

Prediction 2019 Oscars
Shockingly, as in I’m usually much further behind, I’ve missed out on only one of this year’s Best Picture nominees– Vice isn’t yet my vice, it seems – in what is being suggested, with some justification, as a difficult year to call. That might make for must-see appeal, if anyone actually cared about the movies jostling for pole position. If it were between Black Panther and Bohemian Rhapsody (if they were even sufficiently up to snuff to deserve a nod in the first place), there might be a strange fascination, but Joe Public don’t care about Roma, underlined by it being on Netflix and stillconspicuously avoided by subscribers (if it were otherwise, they’d be crowing about viewing figures; it’s no Bird Box, that’s for sure).

We’re looking for a bug no one’s seen before. Some kind of smart bug.

Starship Troopers (1997)
(SPOILERS) Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi trio of Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers are frequently claimed to be unrivalled in their genre, but it’s really only the first of them that entirely attains that rarefied level. Discussion and praise of Starship Troopers is generally prefaced by noting that great swathes of people – including critics and cast members – were too stupid to realise it was a satire. This is a bit of a Fight Club one, certainly for anyone from the UK (Verhoeven commented “The English got it though. I remember coming out of Heathrow and seeing the posters, which were great. They were just stupid lines about war from the movie. I thought, ‘Finally someone knows how to promote this.’”) who needed no kind of steer to recognise what the director was doing. And what he does, he does splendidly, even if, at times, I’m not sure he entirely sustains a 129-minute movie, since, while both camp and OTT, Starship Troopers is simultaneously required t…

If you could just tell me what those eyes have seen.

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)
(SPOILERS) Robert Rodriguez’ film of James Cameron’s at-one-stage-planned film of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Gunnm on the one hand doesn’t feel overly like a Rodriguez film, in that it’s quite polished, so certainly not of the sort he’s been making of late – definitely a plus – but on the other, it doesn’t feel particularly like a Jimbo flick either. What it does well, it mostly does very well – the action, despite being as thoroughly steeped in CGI as Avatar – but many of its other elements, from plotting to character to romance, are patchy or generic at best. Despite that, there’s something likeable about the whole ludicrously expensive enterprise that is Alita: Battle Angel, a willingness to be its own kind of distinctive misfit misfire.

You know what you did? You finished writing a book before the good part happened.

Molly’s Game (2017)
(SPOILERS) I spent the first hour of Molly’s Game wondering how it was that Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut didn’t receive more awards exposure last year. Then it became clear, as he very nearly blows it. Not enough to ruin the picture, but more than sufficient to remind you this was the guy responsible for the saccharine, well-meaning, fantasy-land White House of The West Wing.

The smartest operative on the hill just got played by Grampa Simpson.

Miss Sloane (2016)
(SPOILERS) John Madden’s name as director might be a clue that this exploration of the world of political lobbying isn’t going to be altogether successful; one might give a pass to his inoffensive pensioner pictures (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its sequel) but otherwise he hasn’t delivered a truly satisfying feature since the Oscar glory that (rightly) greeted Shakespeare in Love. As usual, he’s only as serviceable as his screenplay, and this one is all sorts of uneven.

Do I look like the Bournemouth Strangler?

The Wrong Box (1966)
(SPOILERS) In an essay accompanying The Wrong Box’s recent Blu-ray release, Louis Barfe tells how he first saw the film on TV before his family had a VCR, much to his distress. I was luckier in that regard, and as a result it was on regular rotation during the 1980s. An inevitability of such nostalgic attachments is that one becomes somewhat immune to a movie’s failings, but in The Wrong Box’s case I think revisiting it decades later reconfirms what I was always aware of to some extent: that it has numerous delightful distractions, but director Bryan Forbes isn’t able to lend it the focus of a strong through-line.

I know a lot about oh shits.

The Mule (2018)
(SPOILERS) Clint gets back in the acting saddle, probably reallyfor the last time, this time – unless we get that final Dirty Harry sequel – and if Green Book is accused of being a product of a different era, the charge could be levelled at The Mule with bells on. Eastwood positively revels in playing a not always too likeable un-PC old goat, with the get-out that drug mule Earl Stone is a very flawed man, so this is a journey of redemption. Ironically, given Clint’s been exclusively concentrating on calling the shots in the meantime, this is the near-nonagenarian’s best movie in a decade, since the last time he directed himself.

I defy you to find someone with more Brunobilia than me.

The Return of Bruno (1987)
Bruce Willis, riding high on a crest of Moonlighting-fuelled wave of adoration – the public even bought in to his initial bid at movie stardom to an extent, the late period Blake Edwards turkey Blind Date – chose to embark on this mockumentary-cum-vanity project as a Zelig-esque musical legend responsible for influencing every major post-50s music scene going. The production company was Bruce’s Hudson Hawk Films, and the musical director was chum and Hudson Hawk – the movie – co-creator Robert Kraft. This was way back, when Willis was a fun guy. When, scarcely credibly, stars would flock to mock/ send up themselves for him. Remember back then?

A bad review is better than sinking into the great glut of anonymity.

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
(SPOILERS) Oh dear. That’s two strike outs in a row for Dan Gilroy, following Roman J. Israel, Esq. And it all looked so rosy in the wake of Nightcrawler. For his third feature as helmer, Gilroy has offered up a skewering of the LA art world via a supernatural force exacting revenge for misuse of a deceased artist’s paintings. If that instantly carries with it an air of familiarity, like an extended X-Files episode that fails to hit its target, that’s entirely understandable. Velvet Buzzsaw wants to be as gaudily over the top as the title, but has to settle for not being all that incisive, smart or funny instead.

Life is like a box of timelines. You feel me?

Russian Doll Season One
(SPOILERS) It feels like loading the dice to proclaim something necessarily better because it’s female-driven, but that’s the tack The Hollywood Reporter took with its effusive review of Russian Doll, suggesting “although Nadia goes on a similar journey of self-discovery to Bill Murray’s hackneyed reporter in Groundhog Day, the fact that the show was created, written by and stars women means that it offers up a different, less exploitative and far more thoughtful angle” (than the predominately male-centric entries in the sub-genre). Which rather sounds like Rosie Knight changing the facts to fit her argument. And ironic, given star Natasha Lyonne has gone out of her way to stress the show’s inclusive message. Russian Dollis good, but the suggestion that “unlike its predecessors (it) provides a thoughtfulness, authenticity and honesty which makes it inevitable end (sic) all the more powerful” is cobblers.

So, I'm just supposed to keep dying until I figure out who my killer is?

Happy Death Day (2017)
(SPOILERS) A delightfully tongue-in-cheek Groundhog Day horror from Blumhouse, which gave the project the greenlight a decade after its former studio abandoned it. Director Christopher Landon (writer of Disturbia and no less than four Paranormal Activitys) ensures his mysterious masked murderer on campus and repeat is glossy, upbeat, self-aware and full of vim, making it the natural inheritor of Scream’s post-modern mantle, right down to the manufacturer of the murder’s mask.

If people don't like the way I talk, they can go take a shit.

Green Book (2018)
(SPOILERS) It’s understandable that there’s been a backlash against the backlash against Green Book (most recently evidenced by its Producers Guild Awards win for best film), as whatever its failures in avoiding the standard Hollywood tropes for addressing race issues, when you drill down to its essence, it’s a good story well told.